The past few months have been a roller coaster ride of emotions for Colonials fans to say the least. From the low of falling just short of earning a NCAA Tournament bid, to the high of winning the NIT Tournament. Then, when all seemed to be looking up for the program, The Washington Post released an exposé on Mike Lonergan, and his conduct over the past few years of coaching at GW. After a lengthy investigation, the athletic department made the decision to part ways with Coach Lonergan, and named Maurice Joseph the Interim Head Coach.
The Colonials graduate arguable one of their best senior-classes ever, and certainly the best since the 2005-06 season. Patricio Garino led GW in scoring last season, averaging 13.9 PPG, and lead the A-10 in three-point field goal percentage. Garino was the potent offensive threat to come through Foggy Bottom since the days of Maureece Rice and Carl Elliott. The Colonials also lose their point-guard of the last four seasons, Joe McDonald, who has been the most consistent player for GW in recent years. His calming presence will certainly be missed, as well as his ability to haul in rebounds (as a guard) on a consistent basis.
George Washington will also lose another four-year starter, Kevin Larsen, who was always a reliable post-presence for the Colonials. Larsen averaged almost a double-double per game last season, and certainly leaves a large gap in the lineup. Alex Mitola, though only at GW one year as a graduate-transfer student, certainly made his mark on the program. Most notably, a fade-way game-winner against Hofstra in the opening round of the NIT last March. In addition to the graduating departures, Paul Jorgensen, Anthony Swan and Matt Cimino all are transferring out of George Washington.
Prior to his firing from GW, Mike Lonergan called this incoming class the best he’s ever had-and this is coming from a man who won a Division III national championship, and who’s recruits while at GW include Garino, McDonald and Larsen. Interim Head Coach Maurice Joseph will certainly have a lot of cards to play, as eight new players are on the Colonials’ roster for the upcoming season. Transfers Jaren Sina from Seton Hall and Patrick Steeves from Harvard will add some much-needed veterans to the lineup. In addition, the six incoming freshmen should secure the future for George Washington basketball.
Kevin Marfo will likely be a day-one starter for the Colonials, to fill the void left with the graduation of Kevin Larsen. Marfo is a three-star recruit out of Oradell, New Jersey, and will bring the physicality GW will need to be successful in the A-10 this season. The Colonials’ will add a significant amount of depth at the guard position with the arrival of Jair Bolden, Justin Williams, Arnaldo Toro, Collin Smith and younger brother of Alex Mitola, Adam Mitola.
Arguably one of the best players in the entire Atlantic 10, Tyler Cavanaugh will definitely have to pull a significant amount of weight for GW this season. The senior was the most consistent player in the Colonials’ lineup last season, and was the only player to score in double figures in every game. The reigning NIT Most Outstanding Player will be joined by Japanese phenom, Yuta Watanabe. “The Chosen One,” as he is known, will definitely need to player a larger role for GW, and his size and agility could help fill the void left by the departure of Patricio Garino.
Matt Hart is the third returning piece of the puzzle for George Washington. Last season, he averaged just 3.8 PPG, but was one of the most underrated three-point shooters in the league. Don’t be surprised if Hart becomes one of the breakout stars of the A-10 this season. He has shown the ability to hit big shots in key situations, include a very deep three in the NIT Finals, that all but put away Valparaiso.
The first test of the season could come on November 22nd, when the Colonials could face Kansas (or UAB) in the championship or consolation came of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, KS. This game is not a guaranteed matchup, as it will depend on how the Colonials fare against Georgia, and how the Jayhawks fare against UAB, but should the stars align, it would be a colossal game for the program. The game would essentially be a home game from Kansas, as the Sprint Center is only 42 miles from Lawrence, and could the Colonials pull off the enormous upset, it would make last season’s victory over #6 Virginia pale in comparison.
On December 4th, GW will face Florida State in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. The BB&T Classic has been a place where George Washington has seen some of their biggest wins in school history. In 2003, the Colonials knocked off #9 Michigan State, and the next day saw the Colonials defeat #12 Maryland. 2013 saw Maurice Creek’s now-famous step-back jumped at the buzzer as the Colonials downed the Terrapins again. In addition, Florida State has been ranked #25 in ESPN’s No-Longer-Way-Too-Early preseason poll.
GW will close out their non-conference schedule with a visit to Miami (FL) on December 22nd. The Hurricanes have seen great success in recent years, and a late December win over an ACC opponent would be an enormous résumé booster. The Colonials will open A-10 play on December 30th in Philadelphia against reigning conference champion Saint Joseph’s, the team that knocked the Colonials out of the A-10 Tournament last year, and ruined any hopes GW had to receive an NCAA Tournament bid. Revenge will be on their minds, to say the least.
The rest of the Atlantic 10 schedule is pretty manageable, all things considered. VCU is the only big name that the Colonials will have to play twice. They’ll get Dayton and St. Bonaventure at home , but will have to play Rhode Island and La Salle on the road. Of course, there are never any easy games once conference play begins, but GW certainly doesn’t have as difficult a schedule as some of the other teams in the conference do.
As always, it seems with GW, no one quite knows what to expect from this team this season. The ceiling is very high for the program, and their schedule certainly would allow for several high-RPI wins that could help the Colonials into the NCAA Tournament. However, they will be a young team this season. There are eight new players and a (sort of) new head coach, and how well and how quickly all the moving parts can gel together as a team will determine a large part of how successful this team will be. The pieces are certainly there for George Washington to contend for the Atlantic 10 title, it’s simply a matter of, whether they can do it or not.